Are we poised for a spring selling season for the ages, or are sales about to fall from a cliff? How will the vaccines and the reopening of America affect car sales in the spring? There are a lot of variables that will play a role in determining the answer to this question. Could there be another stimulus? Will cases of COVID surge? What will President Biden do? What about used vehicle supply? Great questions, but none address the cauldron of pent-up desire for consumption that is about to boil over.
Lockdowns kept people at home through much of 2020. No sporting events, parties, graduations or even nights out with friends. Life slowed down as people worked from home, Zoomed the holidays and dreamed of the days when they could leave the house and connect with others in person.
Our whole population feels like recent high school graduates waiting for the day they leave for college. When spring arrives, car buyers are going to bust out of their homes and head out to spend the money they have been hoarding like squirrels preparing for winter. Bolstered by stimulus and tax returns, their pockets will be bursting. This spring will see a strong demand for new and used vehicles as sales numbers bounce back to and surpass pre-COVID levels.
Many in our business fear that car sales will be forever changed after COVID due to the new understanding and expectations of consumers for technology-assisted sales processes. While this is true to some extent, once they feel it is safe, most car shoppers will return to dealerships for test drives before buying.
What does this mean? Don’t abandon your brick and mortar just yet. You need to play to your strengths to beat the Carvanas of the world. Buying a new car is still a major purchase and can still be exciting. Now is the time to look at your facilities and consider new ways to make your dealerships stand out from the others and the cold glass towers in industrial parks over by the freeway. Consumers will return to retail in 2021. There will be winners and losers. Which do you want to be?
When drivers return to the road, give them something to look at. All the dealerships look alike. How are you going to stand out? Consider spinning ramps on your front line to grab their attention. The higher the better. Use banners, signs and balloons or whatever you have to be different. You want them to be able to tell the difference between your store and a grocery store parking lot.
Be the only dealership on your street with a car spinning 25 feet in the air. Even use it as your logo in all your advertising. “We’re the Ford dealer with the F-150 spinning in the air.” Car buyers only visit a couple of stores these days. When they leave the first, give them a reason to make yours the second. This gives you a great opportunity to deliver a vehicle to a person who is not coming in just for the super-low internet price.
Luxury and truck sales have been strong through COVID. This will continue. Not only can you get these vehicles into your inventory, but you can also make a healthy profit on them. Plus, these buyers have had less job loss, and demand is high. Focus on these vehicles as your centerpieces, if your market will support it. Put them on the front line — up on ramps or even your roof, if allowed. These units will also help to maintain strong demand if a stimulus does not come or takes longer than expected to arrive.
Be ready when the flowers bloom and the car shoppers return to dealerships with money saved for down payments and a desire to reengage with the outside world. Make your inventory and your facilities attractive with the right units and sense of excitement. You need to stack the deck in your favor as we roll into spring in order to enjoy your spring selling season for the ages.